John Green announces $1M annual donation to fight his (least) favorite disease

John Green smiling next to TB under microscope

It’s no secret that beloved author, YouTuber, and global health advocate John Green has an infatuation with tuberculosis.

He’ll be the first to tell you that TB is the world’s deadliest disease — and it is entirely curable.

Still, due to inequalities in access to diagnostics, treatment, and care, the World Health Organization estimates that 10 million people across the globe are infected by TB every year. Of those millions, 1.6 million still die each year — especially in high-burden countries, like India, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines.

“I kind of see this [the fight against TB] as the biggest bet of my life,” Green said in a recent YouTube video. “A bet that we simply don’t have to accept a world where so many people are dying of a disease that no one should die of.”

With the help of Green, government agencies and public health advocates have announced a major investment to bring “truly comprehensive TB care to regions in Ethiopia and the Philippines.”

Over the next four years, a new project will bring over $100 million to fight TB in Ethiopia and the Philippines.

An additional $1 million will be pledged each year by Green and his family (which includes his brother, Hank Green) to help fund the work being done in the Philippines, which has the fourth-highest burden of TB globally.

“We hope this project will be both a beacon and a blueprint to show that it’s possible to radically reduce the burden of TB in communities quickly and permanently,” Green wrote in a newsletter to TB activists and supporters on Thursday. “It will also, we believe, save many, many lives.”

In the newsletter, Green broke down the funding. The Ministry of Health in the Philippines has provided $11 million per year in matching funds to go alongside $10 million provided by USAID and the annual $1 million donation from the Greens. 

“This $22 million per year will fund everything from X-Ray machines, medications, and GeneXpert tests to training and employing a huge surge of community health workers, nurses, and doctors,” Green explained.

These professionals are calling themselves TB Warriors, and their work will include screening for TB, identifying cases, providing curative treatment, and offering preventative therapy. 

This is called the Search, Treat & Prevent Strategy, which Green explained to his YouTube audience earlier this week. 

His audience — thousands of people around the globe who call themselves Nerdfighters — have been loyal supporters of Green’s work to end TB over the years.

Last summer, their community organizing — informed by the long-time practices of groups like the Stop TB Partnership and Doctors Without Borders — successfully enabled large corporations like Johnson & Johnson and Danaher to make their TB products more accessible.

Nerdfighters rallied around the #PatientsNotPatents campaign to urge Johnson & Johnson to not renew a patent, making bedaquiline — a life-saving TB drug — available to low- and middle-income countries.

And their work with the #TimeFor5 campaign continues, as advocates work to convince Danaher to lower the price of its innovative GeneXpert testing cartridges, which are vital to the diagnosis of TB. 

One reason this new project is even possible, Green wrote, is “both the cost of diagnosis (through GeneXpert tests) and the cost of treatment with bedaquiline are far lower than they were a year ago.” 

“That is due to public pressure campaigns, many of which were organized by Nerdfighteria,” he continued, praising his fanbase for their volunteer organizing work.

The millions of dollars he and his community have been able to invest in this work also come from grassroots campaigns, like this year’s Project For Awesome fundraiser. 

Green has also raised funds for other global health-related causes through the charitable endeavors of the Good Store, an online shop that donates all of its proceeds to Partners in Health.

But as of now, Green said he is not asking for further donations.

“Hank and I will be funding this partnership with a few people in Nerdfighteria who are making major gifts,” he wrote in the newsletter. 

But he did have one ask for his community.

“I am asking you to continue pressuring the corporations that profit from the world’s poorest people to lower their prices,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the budgets for this project, and it’s absolutely jaw-dropping how many more tests and pills are available because of what you’ve done as a community.”

Left header photo by Marina Waters, courtesy of John Green / Right header photo courtesy of the CDC

Article Details

March 14, 2024 11:10 AM
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